Saturday, January 2, 2010

Annals of Philosophy

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 9:00 AM


The Legend of Bhagavan

"I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Bhagavad Gita 11:32 as translated by
J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer, January 1, 1947

LIFE magazine photo, Jan. 1, 1947

African-American Golf Pioneer Bill Powell Dies at 93 on New Year's Eve, 2009

Powell died on New Year's Eve– the day before yesterday. Yesterday's post was dedicated to Will Smith in his role as golf caddy Bagger Vance. In the novel from which the Smith film was taken, "Bagger Vance" is an anglicized form of the term "Bhagavan" from the Bhagavad Gita. In the Gita, "Bhagavan" refers to Krishna– an incarnation, or avatar, of the god Vishnu.

Let us hope that when, on the last day of the old year, Powell met the Reaper, he appeared as neither fearsome Krishna nor grim Oppenheimer, but rather as the kinder, gentler Bagger Vance.

See also "Bhagavad Gita" in this journal.

Monday, March 31, 2003

Monday March 31, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:30 AM

Divine Right of Empire
and the

Corinne Alphen,

Sunday Lottery 

New York

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Winning number for the midday Empire State lottery:




Operation James

From The Glasgow Daily Record:
Monday, March 31, 2003 –
Simon Houston; Near Basra, Iraq

Commando raiders tightened the Allies’ grip on Basra yesterday by storming a key suburb of Iraq’s besieged second city.

The raid was named Operation James, after James Bond. Targets were codenamed Goldfinger, Blofeld and Pussy Galore.


Sunday, March 30, 2003

Winning number for the midday Keystone State Lottery:


All or Nothing at All” — Frank Sinatra

The PA lottery number on the night Sinatra died was 256.


Operation Playmate

From Yahoo News:

Friday, March 28, 2003 –

During the Gulf War, Playboy magazine’s celebrated Centerfolds reached out to U.S. military men and women… with their “Operation Playmate” project….

Those…  efforts… had their roots in the Vietnam War, when 1966 Playmate of the Year Jo Collins traveled to the combat zone and flew aboard a helicopter gunship….

Now, in light of the war in Iraq, “Operation Playmate” has returned. 

See also The Bhagavad Gita 10:36.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Sunday March 16, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:19 AM


On this date in 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel
The Scarlet Letter” was first published.

Ye see how large a letter
  I have written….”
  — St. Paul, Galatians
  Chapter 6, Verse 11

Einstein and Oppenheimer
at the Institute for
Advanced Study, Princeton

Einstein wrote a rather
famous letter to FDR;
Oppenheimer is known as
the father of the A-bomb.

Song of God

From the Hindu holy scripture Bhagavad Gita (Song of God):

“Of orators, I am the speech; of letters the first one, A; I am imperishable time; the Creator whose face is everywhere; death that devours all things.”
 — Bhagavad Gita 10.32-33,
 tr. by Stephen Mitchell,
 Harmony Books, 2000


— Suzan-Lori Parks,
in today’s New York Times 

Suzan-Lori Parks

See also my note of two years ago,

Random Thoughts for St. Patrick’s Eve.”

For more on Oppenheimer and the Bhagavad Gita, see

Fat Man and Dancing Girl.”

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Tuesday February 18, 2003

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 12:00 PM

Fat Man and Dancing Girl


Dance of
Shiva and Kali

Paul Newman as
General Groves


Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, portrayed in the film "Fat Man and Little Boy," died on this date in 1967.

He is sometimes called the "father of the A-bomb."  He said that at the time of the first nuclear test he thought of a line from the Sanskrit holy book, the Bhagavad Gita: "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."  The following gives more details.

The Bomb of the Blue God

M. V. Ramana

Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, Princeton University

Published in SAMAR: South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection, Issue 13

Oppenheimer had learned Sanskrit at Berkeley so as to read the Gita in the original; he always kept a worn pink copy on the bookshelf closest to his desk. It is therefore likely that he may have actually thought of the original, Sanskrit, verse rather than the English translation. The closest that fits this meaning is in the 32nd verse from the 11th chapter of the Gita.

 kalosmi lokaksaya krt pravrddho

This literally means: I am kAla, the great destroyer of Worlds. What is intriguing about this verse, then, is the interpretation of kAla by Jungk and others to mean death. While death is technically one of the meanings of kAla, a more common one is time.  Indeed, the translations of the Gita by S. Radhakrishnan, A. C. Bhaktivedanta, Nataraja Guru and Eliot Deutsch say precisely that. One exception to this, however, is the 1929 translation by Arthur Ryder. And, indeed, in a 1933 letter to his brother, Robert Oppenheimer does mention that he has "been reading the Bhagavad Gita with Ryder and two other Sanskritists." The misinterpretation, therefore, may not have been the fault of Oppenheimer or Jungk. Nevertheless, the verse does not have anything to do with an apocalyptic or catastrophic destruction, as most people have interpreted it in connection with nuclear weapons. When kAla is understood as time, the meaning is drastically changed to being a reminder of our mortality and finite lifetimes ­ as also the lifetimes of everything else in this world (including plutonium and uranium, despite their long, long, half-lives!). It then becomes more akin to western notions of the "slow march of time" and thus having little to do with the immense destruction caused by a nuclear explosion. While the very first images that arose in the father of the atomic bomb are a somewhat wrong application of Hindu mythology, his recollection of the Bhagavad Gita may have been quite pertinent. As is well known, the Bhagavad Gita was supposedly intended to persuade Arjuna to participate in the Kurukshetra battle that resulted in the killing of thousands. Thus, Oppenheimer may well have been trying to rationalize his involvement in the development of a terrible weapon.

Source: Google cache of

See also
"KAla" (in the Harvard-Kyoto transliteration scheme) is more familiar to the West in the related form of Kali, a goddess sometimes depicted as a dancing girl; Kali is related to kAla, time, according to one website, as "the force which governs and stops time."  See also the novel The Fermata, by Nicholson Baker.

The fact that Oppenheimer thought of Chapter 11, verse 32, of the Gita may, as a mnemonic device, be associated with the use of the number 1132 in Finnegans Wake.

 See 1132 A. D. & Saint Brighid, and my weblog entries of January 5 (Twelfth Night and the whirligig of time), January 31 (St. Bridget's Eve), and February 1 (St. Bridget's Day), 2003.

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